Make the Most of Your Food Scraps!

We have an important unsung hero helping our region fight climate change and turn food scraps into a renewable resource: Bacteria!

Woman backyard composting

These little guys create fantastic fertilizer, whether they are in your backyard compost pile, a compost facility where our residential food scraps go or to a high tech bio digester like JC Biomethane where most of our region’s commercial food scraps end up.

Backyard composting is especially cool.

Bacteria start the process. Fungi and protozoa follow. Finally, centipedes, millipedes, beetles and worms finish the job.

These beneficial organisms thrive on a four-ingredient recipe:

  1. Greens (one part) - fresh grass clippings, green leaves, plant stalks, hedge trimmings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee filters and grinds and tea bags.
  2. Browns (two parts) - old potting soil, dried grass, leaves and twigs, shredded newspaper, straw, and wood chips.
  3. Water - to keep the pile as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
  4. Air - provided through regularly turning the pile to allow all of the parts to remain well aerated.

Presto! You have free food for your veggies, flowers and potted plants.

Learn more about backyard composting—visit Metro’s Yard and Garden Tools For Living.

curbside Food scrap expands to Forest Grove and Lake oswego

In the first year of Portland’s food scrap collection program, garbage was reduced by 40% and the city collected three times the compost. Almost every household was placing some food in the compost cart.

Starting on June 1 in Lake Oswego and Forest Grove later in the summer,   residents can also start placing food scraps in their yard debris carts.

These changes will capture more food scraps. Some homes don’t produce enough yard debris to build a backyard compost pile. Meanwhile, some food scraps don’t belong in the backyard compost. Dairy, meat, grains, bones and seafood shells break down slowly and attract vermin to backyard settings. These items need to go to a compost facility to get hot enough to break them down safely.

The list of accepted materials is the same in all three programs (except Lake Oswego will not accept biodegradable plastic liners). Lake Oswego and Forest Grove garbage, recycling, and composting will continue to be picked up on the same current schedule.

Spread the word in these cities to “Include the Food!”



Separating food scraps for composting takes a little getting used to but folks here are up for the challenge. 

Even if you don’t live in Forest Grove, Lake Oswego or Portland many of the hints about managing food scraps will be useful for backyard composting.

Three simple steps for food scrap collection

Food prep
  1. Place your kitchen compost container in a convenient location in your kitchen. You can line your container with approved liners.  
  2. Include the food! Collect food scraps while preparing meals, scraping plates and cleaning the fridge of leftovers—every little bit counts.
  3. Empty your kitchen container, including the liner, into your compost cart as frequently as you like. Place your cart out for weekly pickup.

Dealing with the ‘ick factor’:

  • Use an optional liner in your kitchen container. You can contain food in an approved compostable bag, newspaper or a paper bag to keep your food scraps from touching the inside of your cart.
  • Line the bottom of your cart with newspaper, a paper bag or a pizza delivery box to help absorb moisture.
  • Layer yard debris in between your food scraps to reduce odors and to contain messier foods.
  • Sprinkle baking soda in your garbage and compost carts to reduce odors and deter insects.
  • Store your cart in the shade in warm weather.
  • Consider freezing some scraps and emptying them in the cart right before pick up day.
  • Use soap and water to clean the green roll cart. Pour dirty water onto grass or gravel, not down the storm drain.

Want some guidance?
To learn curbside composting basics, explore kitchen container liner options, and get tips on caring for your kitchen compost container and cart, check out these videos:

Lake Oswego Residential Organics Collection.
City of Portland three food scrap videos.